The Indiana House narrowly endorsed on Monday a
proposal aimed at making it more difficult for Indiana electric companies to
close more coal-fired power plants.
House members voted
52-41 in favor of the bill that would impose additional state reviews on
utility companies for the coming year before they could move ahead with
shutting down those plants. Just two Democrats joined Republicans in
supporting the bill, which faces objections from consumer and environmental
groups who argue it props up the coal industry and could stifle growth in
renewable energy such as wind and solar power.
Republican Rep. Ed
Soliday of Valparaiso, the bill’s sponsor, said he wants to slow down any
more plant closing decisions before a state energy task force completes a
report for legislators that’s due in late 2020. He said he worries about
major actions happening before the Legislature can consider the report and
whether to adopt a statewide energy policy next year.
“Whether that is
coal or rabbits on a treadmill, we need the lights to come on when we flip
the switch,” Soliday said. “We are in transition and all we’re asking is to
be able to manage it.”
The proposal comes
as at least four large Indiana electric utilities intend on closing several
coal-burning plants in the coming years. Those include plans from
Indianapolis Power & Light Co. to retire by 2023 two of the four
coal-burning units at its Petersburg Generating Station in southwestern
Indiana, while Merrillville-based Northern Indiana Public Service Co. aims
to shut down four of its five remaining coal-fired units within five years.
that the proposal threatens higher electricity bills for consumers and
adding bureaucratic steps for companies with the Indiana Utility Regulatory
“Let’s just let the
market work its will,” said Democratic Rep. Matt Pierce of Bloomington.
“Let’s not shift the balance of the scale to an inefficient competitor who’s
having difficulties winning in the marketplace.”
Several coal mines
in southwestern Indiana have closed in recent years, and some legislators
from that area pointed to the importance of that industry to the state.
Bruce Borders of Jasonville said coal is a primary reason the state has
affordable electricity now as 70 percent of Indiana’s electricity now comes
from coal-burning plants.
“I think we’re
foolish to treat coal as something who’s day has come and gone,” Borders
The proposal now
goes to the Senate for consideration.